How did the financial crisis affect your finances?

How did the financial crisis affect your finances?

Ten years after the financial crisis, and the shockwaves are still being felt on people’s finances.

Personal debt levels are at record highs and our banks are fast disappearing from the high street.

Low interest rate have left savers enduring a decade of paltry returns, but it’s never been cheaper for mortgage borrowers.

In the changed financial environment, the question to ask is: "Are my finances fit for the next decade?"

Here, we examine four personal finances areas – homes, savings, borrowing and banking – to discover the lasting legacy of the financial crisis. 1. Homes

The average UK house price fell from a pre-crisis peak of £190,032 in September 2007 to a low of £154,452 in March 2009, according to data from the Office for National Statistics and the Land Registry. Since then, the price of an average house has recovered to £228,384.

Is that good news for homeowners? Not necessarily. There’s no such thing as an average house, and for homeowners there’s been a real north-south divide in the last decade in terms of property prices.

Londoners and those in the south-east have seen prices soar, but elsewhere in the country, the picture is much different.

Richard Donnell, insight director at Hometrack, said: "Although a decade has passed since the crash, house prices have still not recovered back to the levels seen in 2008 in many markets across Britain.

"Northern Ireland and parts of northern England, Scotland and Wales are the areas most affected. House prices continued to fall in the markets most affected for up to four years after 2008 as demand for housing was impacted by tighter credit availability and weak economic growth."

In the capital, house prices started to bounce back strongly in 2010 on rising employment and increasing numbers of overseas investors, he said. It means the whole of the London housing market has house prices that are more than 50% higher than 2008 levels.

What will happen next? Experts reckon prices will continue to rise but by less than in the last decade, and much less so in London.

The UK Office for Budget Responsibility has predicted property price growth will fall to 2.4% by the end of 2019, while estate agents Strutt & Parker have predicted a 2.5% rise a year over the next two years.

Meanwhile, accountants PWC have forecast that average UK house prices will rise by 4% a year until 2025. 2. Savings

For Britain’s savers, the last decade has been a disaster, especially those that had enjoyed decent returns in the years before. In fact. £1,000 tucked away in a savings account a decade before the crash would have yielded a healthy £652 in interest. But anyone who stashed £1,000 in an account in the last ten years would have earned interest of just £149.

That’s because in September 2008, the average deposit account paid interest of 3.1%, according to Bank of England data. That now stands at 0.43%.

Ten years ago you could get 5% on instant access savings, more than 6% on a one-year bond and 7% on a five-year bond from well-known established high street names.

Now the best rates are nowhere near as generous, with just 1.35% offered on instant access, 2.05% for one year and 2.70% for five years.

According to James Blower, founder of The Savings Guru, around 30 new banks and 40 new providers have entered the savings market since the crash. "The best interest rates almost entirely come from these new providers," he said.

Yet the traditional big financial institutions still hold around 85% of savings in the UK, with many savers’ loyalty repaid by getting little or no interest on their nest-eggs.

Hargreaves Lansdown analysis suggests there has been a huge rise in the amount of money held in accounts paying no interest in the last decade, from £48bn in September 2008 to £164bn today.

"While the value of the savings market has continued to grow around 5% a year to more than £1.5tn, the new entrants have taken much of the growth in the market, rather than make significant progress against the big players," said Mr Blower.

But things could improve soon, predicted Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown.

"At this point, savers have reason to be marginally more optimistic about the future," she said. "That’s because the regulator is looking more closely at how the industry functions, in an effort to protect savers from the lowest rates." 3. Borrowing

Average household debt has climbed from less than £3,000 to £4,000 in the last decade. There are lots of reasons for this, not least the easy credit that is available through plastic cards.

Credit card companies have been competing to offer ever-longer interest-free periods to attract customers.

In 2008 the longest 0% balance transfer was 15 months. Today, it is 36 months, although at one stage it reached a record high of 43 months.

Analyst Andrew Hagger, of Moneycomms,co.uk, said: "I’m not sure this is a good thing for all. Some savvy customers have moved balances around and paid little or no interest but others have struggled to repay their debt when their 0% deal ended – so are now being charged 20% APR or more."

He said it was one reason why personal debt levels have risen. "It’s been easy and cheap money a-plenty over the last decade but paying it back will prove to be a long and costly struggle for some."

Overdrafts have also changed in the last decade. Most banks have changed the way they charge, moving from charging by a traditional interest rates to either daily or monthly fees.

"Providers have proclaimed that daily fees are easier to understand," said Mr Hagger. "That may be true, but at the same time they are also much more expensive for customers and a big profit driver."

The simple truth is that the way to reduce debt is to pay it off as quickly as you can and ignore the temptation of easy credit. With interest rates on the rise, what seems manageable debt now can quickly spiral into problems. 4. Banking

There’s a completely different banking landscape from 10 years ago, not least because traditional players have been busy closing branches. But at the same time the crisis marked the beginning of the entry of a whole new range of challenger banks.

Back in 2008, the most likely challengers looked set to be the supermarkets, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. Now the biggest challenge to traditional banking comes from branch-free app banks, such as Starling or Monzo.

Julian Skan, senior managing director in banking at Accenture Strategy, said: "Wider competition is now coming from platform players, which didn’t exist ten years ago, and who have greater opportunities to bite at banking revenues."

But he warned that computer attacks are likely to increase in the years ahead, bringing a fresh challenge. "Resiliency in the face of growing cyber risks is the new threat," Mr Skan said.

But there also needs a change in outlook, according to Bevis Watts, managing director of ethical challenger Triodos Bank UK.

He said: "The pace of change has been far too slow and more needs to be done to re-purpose banking for good, through greater transparency on how money is used, carbon disclosure, impact reporting and using risk capital weightings to account for environmental and societal risks."

In other words, banks need to respond to the changing demands from customers in the next decade.

‘Why I filmed a man take his final breath’

‘Why I filmed a man take his final breath'

Steven Eastwood [L] was invited by Alan to film him as he died The old man lies in the hospital bed, drawing his last, rattling breath as he fades away from life.

The film camera, positioned just next to him, keeps rolling. We see the nurses move him to another room before they gently clean his body.

"Nobody wants to die but it’s a natural thing, we are biologically determined to die," says documentary maker Steven Eastwood.

His film, Island , lays bare the dying process by filming four people with terminal illnesses. Roy’s end of life care was tenderly shown "Death is seen as a shameful thing – we think we’re a progressive society, but we repress and deny death," Steven says.

"We’re no better than the Victorians."

He was a quiet onlooker during the last year of his subjects’ lives, filming them in their homes before they became part of the daily rhythms of life in a hospice.

"To say you don’t want it to happen, you’re putting off facing something," he says. Mary talked a lot about her medical treatment during the film "We need better death awareness to be more familiar with our mortality. I don’t think that’s ghoulish."

The documentary came about after Fabrica, a gallery in Brighton , commissioned a film about end of life.

The London-based film-maker’s proposal was accepted, and he managed to get access to film in a hospice on the Isle of Wight. He speaks fondly of his time there, saying: "These are four people I really cared about – Alan, Roy, Mary and Jamie; three were in their 80s and one was in his 40s."

Steven regularly made the five-hour journey to the hospice, including the boat trip to the island, which features in the slow, often hypnotic imagery of the documentary and its trailer .

He made the film after having "two quite significant bereavements – my mother-in-law and my best friend, who was the same age as me.

"So I realised I didn’t know very much about what palliative care is."

Steven thinks we need to face the reality of death, make it part of our daily existence, so it’s less frightening. The Isle of Wight’s scenery makes up many of the film’s quiet moments "I think we all have an existential fear – ‘if I see someone I love who’s died, it’ll be too traumatic, it’ll replace all the images I have of them, I’ll never be able to unsee it, somehow it’ll hurt me’.

"But for me it isn’t the case, being with someone after dying, with that intimacy. I found it quite empowering and peaceful."

He has huge admiration for the people who work in hospices, and hopes his film can "celebrate and show what palliative care is".

"The most radical, extraordinary people in our society are the least visible," he says.

"They’re the carers. And the care we receive at the end of our lives is extraordinary. Steven Eastwood admires nurses working in palliative care, such as the one pictured with Alan "These hospices which people have anxiety about going into – they’re not morbid, sterile spaces, they’re places of life."

He says that after one of the screenings of Island, a stranger approached him, saying it had made him "less afraid of dying".

Steven adds: "It’s not an ambition of mine, but if you can sit through the film and at the end feel uplifted, if you can make some kind of peace with something that will happen to all of us, then that’s a good thing."

He speaks fondly about all his subjects, talking at length about Alan, whose death we see at the start of the film. Alan died of cancer. ‘He was living to smoke’

"Alan had chain-smoked since he was 16 and he smoked in the hospice with a nurse lighting his cigarette. But he wasn’t dying of a smoking-related cancer.

"This is part of what palliative care is – helping someone smoke until they die.

"The doctors felt that if he hadn’t been smoking he would have died several weeks earlier – he was living to smoke."

Alan invited him to film his last moments. The film shows many poignant moments "The second time I met Alan, we had a connection, he said, ‘I think you’d like to stay with me all the way through and I think that would be great’.

"He wanted to do something radical with his death, he felt quite radical about his life.

"He believed our tissue is just a vehicle and we translate into something else.

"As far as he was concerned, there was no self-consciousness around his image, he thought participating was a way of marking something of his philosophy. He became my movie star, he was like my Burt Lancaster."

Steven recalls watching Alan die. ‘Bliss in his eyes as he died’

"His death was a long, running out of breaths. It was very peaceful and very beautiful and I felt really moved by it. I didn’t feel sad. He was really ready to die."

Alan told Steven he had seen a man die when he was just 19, during active service in the forces in North Africa. His commanding officer was shot, and died in his arms.

"He held this man and said, ‘I saw bliss in his eyes as he died, and I knew that what we are experiencing now is not it, there’s more’.

"So for him, his death was the thing he’d been waiting for. We can’t all ask for that."

Steven acknowledges that of course deaths can be sudden or premature, such as Jamie’s. Jamie was in his 40s when he died "Jamie had stage 4 stomach cancer and had a young family, his attachment to his daughter was so incredible.

"He wanted to die in the best way he could with his daughter, so he involved her in everything, talked about his treatment, about what it was going to be like when he’s not there.

"He’s the person who I get upset thinking about." Putting death on the school timetable

Call to end ‘taboo’ of talking about death

How to help a child cope with a death?

The film has been used to help medics in handling end of life care, and Steven and his producer are partnered with Sussex NHS trust.

"We’ve run two sessions with trainee doctors, to use the film as a means to talk about how we speak around death and dying, and how we talk to patients."

He’s also keen to attract a young audience as he says people in their 20s are the "biggest death deniers".

Steven talks about the pressure to be "productive, youthful, to look good". Other cultures, such as Mexico’s, take a more colourful approach to death with Day of the Dead "This idea that we’re terminal and have an end is too much. I’ve spoken to young people who think about their late life and say, ‘oh I just want to take a pill to end it, when I’m no longer viable I switch myself off’.

"I do think it’s challenging to confront your own mortality."

Steven, who also volunteers at his local hospice, thinks other cultures handle death better than we do, saying in Ireland "you see a more sustained grieving process and more familiarity being around the body".

He also talks about Latin America and Asia, where they have "a completely different attitude towards the dying process". Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrates and remembers family ancestors "I think we need better education – we are finite, our bodies do decay, and I’ve made my peace with that.

"I hope the film can return us to some extent to our biological bodies, and say yes, everybody will die, most people will die in this way, in their 70s or 80s from either heart disease or cancer, and the care will be extraordinary.

"I don’t find that a burdensome thought. I felt poorly informed, and now I feel better informed by making the film – I hope that it will do that for people."We die and we don’t have to turn it into some kind of sanctum, it’s life. And I think Alan showed me that, so yeah, I was very, very fortunate to be invited to film him."Island is released in UK cinemas on Friday 14 September. Follow us on Facebook , on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts , or on Instagram at bbcnewsents . If you have a story suggestion email .

Fox News host’s gay brother blasts her on Twitter, allegedly calls her ‘monster’

Fox News host's gay brother blasts her on Twitter, allegedly calls her 'monster'

A petition to ban ‘obscene’ Pride in Scotland gains hundreds of signatures Laura Ingraham speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference | Photo: Wikimedia/Gage Skidmore Laura Ingraham is a primetime host on Fox News. Her gay brother, Curtis, however, is making it clear he doesn’t endorse her in any way, even going so far as to allegedly call her a ‘monster’.

While it appears Curtis has since deleted his Twitter account, The Daily Beast’s initial report still contains embedded tweets that can be read.

Speaking his own mind, Curtis doesn’t hold back at all against his sister and her political opinions.

In one tweet, he went after companies who continued to sponsor her show. His tweet also included David Hogg, the Parkland shooting survivor and gun control advocate, whom Laura mocked on her show.

In this tweet, he called Laura’s various comments ‘mean spirited, flip and insensitive’. He further said it made him ‘question her very humanity’.

In a more recent tweet, dated 1 September, he claimed his sister used to ‘mock her black roommate by speaking jive with her friends’ at Dartmouth University.

In August, one of Laura’s segments on Fox News went viral after she said ‘massive demographic changes have been foisted on the American people’ and they’ve made it so ‘the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore’.

Another recent tweet makes claims about their father, with Curtis describing him as ‘abusive’ and ‘alcoholic’, as well as a ‘Nazi sympathizer’.

He then wrote: ‘Like father like daughter?! This was the familial soil that gave bloom to my sister’s anger.’

Especially with Curtis’ Twitter now seemingly deleted, it is difficult to verify the veracity of his statements. Still, both sides of the family are speaking out about it. A nation divide and families divided

The Daily Beast said that when they spoke to Curtis, he called Laura a ‘monster’ numerous times.

‘She’s very smart, she’s well spoken, but her emotional heart is just kind of dead,’ he explained. ‘And you see it in her face when you see her on TV. She’s ready to destroy. She does not listen to understand — she listens to respond. And her response is always an attack.’

He also revealed they used to be close, but it was her opinions about LGBTI rights that was the turning point.

‘You’re destroying me. It’s hideous, it’s hideous behavior,’ Curtis explained. ‘That’s what I’m trying to unveil here, the hypocrisy. “Family’s first, I know about gay rights, my brother is gay.” It’s all a sham.’

As for why he’s speaking out, deleted tweets or not, he said it’s to act as a whistle-blower.

Laura, meanwhile, released a statement to The Daily Beast.

‘My siblings and I are shocked and saddened to learn of these false and hurtful online postings,’ she commented. ‘Although we’ve been estranged from him for many years, we love our brother and miss him very much.’

The Ingrahams aren’t the only well-known family with their divides.

George Conway, the husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, is also loudly critical of Trump. More from Gay Star News

This is why it’s pointless to be cynical – and why you should vote instead

This is why it's pointless to be cynical - and why you should vote instead

A petition to ban ‘obscene’ Pride in Scotland gains hundreds of signatures Proud equality voters | Photo: Provided The midterm elections are coming up in less than two months in the United States. These elections, happening halfway through a president’s term, focus on members of Congress, governors, and other state-wide and local candidates.

This year is crucial – more LGBTI and female candidates are running than ever before , and there are strong indications of a higher voter turnout than usual.

To understand the gravity of these elections, and the importance of voting and being active, GSN spoke to Geoff Wetrosky, the campaign director of HRC Rising .

HRC Rising is the Human Rights Campaign’s grassroots effort fighting for progress, including voting in elections. They currently have 35,000 people on the ground in six key states for the elections. The key states are Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Choose voting, not cynicism

‘We have identified 52 million equality voters to mobilize,’ Wetrosky told GSN. ‘They are, in large part, historically people who don’t turn out for midterm elections.’

These equality voters are those most likely to support pro-equality candidate. When seeking them out, HRC identified 60% being women, 40% being women of color, and 30% as younger voters.

Left-leaning voters don’t have a great track record of turning out for midterms, but, as Geoff told us hopefully, there’s been ‘increased energy in ways we haven’t seen in a number of years’.

Still, in HRC’s polling, they also found a fair amount of cynicism.

‘A good chunk of equality voters are turned off by the election of Donald Trump, and find it a de-motivating factor to vote,’ Wetrosky revealed.

‘They think, “If he can get elected, what’s the point of participating in this process?”‘

Cyncism, however, never helped the fight for progress — and it certainly won’t help turn Congress around. The historicity of these elections

There’s a good chance the midterm elections will shake things up in a profound and exciting way.

Wetrosky explained of HRC’s work: ‘We make it very clear – this is an opportunity not just to show up for ourselves, but for others too.’

Being an equality voter isn’t just voting for the LGBTI community. It’s for all harmed by this administration — women, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and beyond.

6 November could be a historic day, both for voter turnout and the diversity of candidates elected.

‘We want to double the amount of LGBTQ people in the Senate,’ Wetrosky said of one exciting prospect. The goal is to re-elect Tammy Baldwin , currently the only Senator who’s publicly out, and also elect Kyrsten Sinema , thereby doubling the representation (every little step forward counts).

By electing pro-equality candidates, we have a better chance of passing the Equality Act — unequivocally the most important piece of legislation for LGBTI people in the US.

Getting out to rock the vote | Photo: Provided So what can you do?

The first thing is to be informed

‘We’re making sure people understand what they need for voter ID, where their polling places are, and who to contact if they experience any issues while voting,’ Wetrosky said.

As it stands, voter ID laws currently threaten the voting status of transgender Americans and more.

HRC also has the Equality Voter Action Center , which allows people anywhere in the country to help elect pro-equality candidates. Even if you’re from California (like me), you can take steps to make a difference in the six key states.

You can call voters or even join the Equality Corps.

‘If we don’t show up, there will be no check on Donald Trump and his administration,’ Wetrosky warned.

‘People are understanding the importance of midterm elections. They’re also anxious to pull the emergency brake on Donald Trump, and they’re abhorred by his discrimination, such as allowing businesses to refuse people .

‘Enough is enough.’

The midterm elections are on 6 November.

Will & Grace: The groundbreaking LGBT sitcom

Will & Grace: The groundbreaking LGBT sitcom

Sean Hayes, Debra Messing, Eric McCormack and Megan Mullally from the cast of Will and Grace (Isabel Infantes/PA) Will & Grace, the groundbreaking US sitcom, has been lauded with shifting the country’s attitude towards the LGBT community.

Starring Eric McCormack as gay lawyer Will Truman and Debra Messing as straight interior designer Grace Adler, it was the first prime-time TV series to feature openly gay lead characters on American terrestrial television.

Speaking in 2012 during a debate on the issue of same-sex marriage, which would be legalised in all 50 states three years later, vice president Joe Biden praised the show’s impact.

He said: “I think Will & Grace did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybody has ever done.”

In 2014, items from the show were added to an LGBT collection at the Smithsonian Institution, widely regarded as the American national history museum.

The exhibition’s curator, Blocker Bowers, said the show broke new ground and compared its impact on attitudes towards the LGBT community with that of All In The Family, which tackled the issue of race in the 1970s.

Will & Grace was first broadcast by NBC in 1998 and over its original eight-year, eight-season run, was a hit with viewers and critics, winning 16 Primetime Emmy Awards from 88 nominations.

As well as McCormack and Messing, it starred Megan Mullally as socialite Karen Walker and Sean Hayes as the flamboyantly gay Jack McFarland.

Hayes’ character has been the focus for criticism aimed at the show, with many saying Jack plays up to gay stereotypes.

As well as the main cast, the show attracted some of entertainment’s biggest names for guest roles, including Sharon Stone, Madonna and Demi Moore.

Will & Grace has since been revived by NBC, with a ninth series airing last year and a tenth due to air in October.

Press Association

AIR presents struggles of LGBT people arrested under Section 377

AIR presents struggles of LGBT people arrested under Section 377

The RSS, widely regarded as the BJP’s parent party, had sent out a strong statement on the judgement day, claiming homosexual relationships are against the nature, and while decriminalising was fine, such relationships have no acceptance in the Indian society. New Delhi: Within days of the Supreme Court decriminalising homosexuality, All India Radio , the national public broadcaster, on Wednesday aired a special programme on the lives and struggles of LGBT activists who were arrested under Section 377.

The radio show, ‘Salakhon Se Dil Tak’, focused on the struggles of Lucknow-based LGBT activist Arif Jafar who was arrested under Section 377 and spent 47 days in prison in 2001.

The move to air such a programme was a surprise to many as the central government maintained silence on the day the apex court repealed several portions of Section 377. All India Radio is largely seen as toeing the government’s line in most cases.

The RSS, widely regarded as the BJP’s parent party, had sent out a strong statement on the judgement day, claiming homosexual relationships are against the nature, and while decriminalising was fine, such relationships have no acceptance in the Indian society.

The AIR show, which was hosted by RJ Simran, started with the lines “aam sa ladka hun main,aapki jaisi hai meri pasand; kyun bhed bhaav hota hai jab kehta hu mujhe bhi ladke hai pasand (I am an ordinary boy, with desires just as yours. Why am I discriminated against when I say I too like boys)”. After that, Jafar said he was running a support group for the LGBT community in Lucknow in 2001, which included conducting regular meetings and group talks and running a newsletter for the community, when he was one day arrested by the police and charged under Section 110 (abetment to a crime), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and Section 377 (unnatural offences) of the Indian Penal Code .

“The police told the court that they had found us guilty of a conspiracy to promote homosexuality. To make everything believable, they made me hold a copy of ‘Kama Sutra’ in my hand. It was painful because every report that appeared the next day, showed us as criminals,” he said on the programme.

Jafar is one of the petitioners who had approached the Supreme Court urging it to reconsider a 2013 ruling which had upheld Section 377.

Prasar Bharati officials said the programme was aimed at bringing out the stories of people who have been imprisoned in the past. “The issue of Section 377 had captured the nation’s imagination in such a way that we felt it was important to highlight the struggles of those who were fighting for dignity,” an official said.

Reaching out to Muslim clergymen has been one of his biggest aims, Jafar, who is part of Naz Foundation International, told ET. “On the day the Delhi high court ruled in our favour in 2009, the ulema dedicated the session after Friday prayers to how we should take care of the community’s dignity and not indulge in mediabaazi.

This time, there were no such sessions. The sentiment won’t change if society doesn’t accept us.”

Jafar said: “It is important that in the din of celebration we don’t forget what people, who got arrested under Section 377, went through in jails with 60 other prisoners, forced to drink water flowing from drains, abused and beaten up.”

Recovery and clouds on the Spanish horizon

Recovery and clouds on the Spanish horizon

Spain has now seen five years of economic growth, but still has the eurozone’s second-highest unemployment rate after Greece Ten years on from the crisis in the depths of the American banking system that triggered a global economic shock the real question is this – should we be looking back towards the last catastrophe or counting down to the next one?

In Spain where both the physical and financial landscape were altered by the aftershocks that followed the collapse of the Lehman Brothers bank it is possible to find two great cliches of economic journalism side-by-side.

There are green shoots of recovery on the ground – but there are certainly storm clouds on the horizon too.

Headlines from Spain after the economic crisis were often illustrated by pictures of empty apartment blocks in the deserted streets of ghost towns – communities built with borrowed money which were abandoned when developers went bust, banks stopped lending and families stopped buying.

There are still plenty to be found but in the municipality of Valdeluz, a short drive from Madrid, we found something more interesting. A ghost town which is showing signs of coming to life. Valdeluz in 2012, when most apartment blocks were empty The local mayor Miguel Coceras is in no doubt that he is transforming his town from a "municipio de fantasma" into what he calls a "municipio estrella" – a star city.

Certainly if personal energy could be converted into electricity generation Miguel would produce enough in the course of a short meeting to power the whole town.

"We are only a local government, so how does a local government face a global crisis?" he asks. "The answer is to focus on the person beside you, the person living near you."

Miguel is a socialist and so for him part of the answer to the crisis was to use public spending to help prime the pump of the local economy – although he points out that it’s not only socialists who believe in public sector investment, pointing to stimulus-spending in the United States to make his case.

"If you decided to invest to give your citizens more education, culture and sports you’re going to give them a better quality of life, and this is what we decided," he explains.

Realistically the mechanisms of market economics did their bit too, lowering property prices to make them more attractive. Mayor Miguel Coceras says part of the answer has been to use public money to boost the local economy But Miguel sees Valdeluz as a success story for government action and argues that where two years ago 90% of the town’s apartments were empty, today 90% are full.

The problem for Spain is that success hasn’t really been repeated on a national scale even as the country has grown out of crisis. The financial crisis: A lost decade

How the crisis accelerated the rise of China

Who was to blame for the financial crisis?

On the drive back from Valdeluz to Madrid you can find a desolate stretch of unfinished motorway called MP-203.

The surface of the highway was laid, although the lanes were never marked and electrical cables hang down from the roof of a partly-completed toll booth.

It was designed to relieve pressure on the existing motorway system – the kind of road project that governments undertake when an economy is booming or when money is being borrowed to boost public spending.

It doesn’t look as though there are any plans to finish it now – to walk along the deserted fast lane is to feel like an archaeologist of the financial crash.

And there are plenty of other signs too that Spain’s recovery has a long way to go. The unfinished MP-203 motorway remains a sign that Spain’s recovery is not yet complete In a suburb of Madrid we went to a meeting of Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca, an organisation that campaigns to stop banks foreclosing on properties where families can’t keep up their mortgage payments.

Some of the rhetoric from the activists offers a familiar left-wing analysis of the crisis. "Don’t you know that banks don’t pay tax and rich people don’t pay tax?" one of them asks me, but others see the issue of repossession as clear evidence that it’s simply too early to say that financial crisis is over.

When I ask one woman, Carmen Aguilera, if this is evidence that poor Spanish people are paying the price for mistakes made by wealthy American bankers she replies: "Nothing has changed, and the banks haven’t changed."

But even if you don’t take the view that the crisis of 2008 is still going on, it’s still possible to be very worried that it could repeat itself.

Banks which were deemed "too big to fail" are bigger than ever by some measures and in many economies private debt has ballooned to alarming levels.

Prof Carlos Rodriguez Braun is an historian of economic thought who laughs out loud when he’s asked if he’s a pessimist.

"We have a saying in Spanish, ‘a pessimist is a well-informed optimist’," he explains. Prof Carlos Rodriguez Braun says there will be another financial crisis, it’s just a matter of time He is gently dismissive of the Valdeluz model that increased public spending in itself is the answer – if using public money to raise demand was the answer, he points out, there’d never be any economic crises.

Prof Braun goes on to explain that one of the key policy tools used to combat the crisis has been quantitative easing – a way for central banks to pump money into the financial system – and that in spite of its fancy new name it is a variation on tools which have been used in the past.

Overall it’s clear that he is something of a pessimist.

He agrees it’s a question of "when" rather than "if" there’s another financial crisis, adding simply: "Unluckily I don’t know where or when. But if you have the same system and recipes you had in 2007 why would you be sure that you’re not heading for a new crisis?"

Not everyone of course is a pessimist, if only because such unanimity would require a degree of agreement amongst economists, but from Prof Braun it certainly feels compelling.

And it might help to explain why no-one is rushing to finish the work on Motorway MP-203.

Can the city of pizza reinvent itself as a tech capital?

Can the city of pizza reinvent itself as a tech capital?

The city of Naples stretches towards the imposing volcano Vesuvius As tech giants Apple and Cisco set up academies in Naples, the city’s tech entrepreneurs are hoping new investment will revitalise southern Italy’s failing economy.

Naples is a city with a reputation: it has pizza, its very own mafia known as the Camorra, and devil-may-care drivers.

But in the past few years this southern Italian city has also been fostering a growing community of tech start-ups and app creators.

The hope is it will change not just Naples’ reputation, but also its fortunes and so reverse a brain drain that’s seen many of the city’s young graduates leave to find jobs in the more prosperous north of Italy, or even abroad.

Naples, and its region, Campania, is part of the Mezzogiorno (southern Italy and Sicily) which lags behind the rest of the country in terms of economic growth. Here the jobless rate was 22.2% in the first quarter of this year, almost double the national average. Naples is famous for its oven-baked pizzas, but can it become famous for tech innovation? But that hasn’t put off a growing list of Neapolitan tech firms – influencer marketing company Buzzoole and the agricultural tech start-up Evja to name but two.

Evja makes sensors that are placed in fields and greenhouses to transmit real-time indicators of growing conditions.

"We want to prove it’s possible to do business here," says Evja founder Paolo Iasevoli, pointing out that his company is now selling overseas and soon launching in south American markets.

What has really changed the game for Naples’ tech scene is Apple’s recent arrival in the city.

In 2015, Apple opened an academy in Naples, in conjunction with University of Naples Federico II, where students spend a year training to be developers, coders, app creators and start-up entrepreneurs. Buzzoole, creator of an "influencer marketing platform", is committed to Naples This year nearly 400 students graduated from it, about 70% of them are Italian and the majority come from the Campania region. A further 400 students are due to start the academic year later this month.

Apple thought it could make a far bigger splash in a place like Naples than in some of the more established tech hubs of Europe, such as Lisbon, Dublin or Berlin. And where Apple goes, others follow.

Earlier this year, networking giant Cisco opened its own networking academy in Naples. That’s helped provide a steady supply of skilled graduates.

But setting up a tech business in Naples was anything but easy for Mr Iasevoli, who founded Evja three years ago after securing investment from shareholders in Munich and Vienna.

"We had major issues accessing credit from the banks, major issues getting funding from the government," he says. Apple’s Developer Academy has already attracted hundreds of students Despite these obstacles, Mr Iasevoli chose to stay put.

Tech sector salaries in Naples are just half of what someone in London would expect, he reckons, and the cost of living is cheaper, too.

Apple’s presence has also made the job of promoting the region easier for Valeria Fascione, Campania’s minister for internationalisation, start-ups and innovation. She is the only regional minister in Italy with such a role, she says, proudly stating that Campania now has Italy’s second-fastest growth for start-ups.

"When people say to me with a sceptical edge, ‘why Naples? why invest here?’ I say if Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, thinks this is an amazing place then we should agree with him."

But while Apple and Cisco’s academies have been great news for young graduates and Naples’ image, it hasn’t prompted the inflows of private capital some had hoped for. Valeria Fascione hope’s Apple’s investment in Naples will encourage others to set up there As a region, Campania receives some of the lowest investment in the whole of western Europe. Most of Italy’s economic activity happens up north – Milan is where the venture capital firms are based.

Which is where Giovanni de Caro comes in.

He’s worked in venture capital for the past two decades and sits on the board of Campania NewSteel, the University of Naples’ tech incubator, which occupies the site of abandoned steel mills outside the city.

"The companies are here but the money is not," says Mr de Caro, a Neapolitan himself.

These days, he describes himself as Campania NewSteel’s "finance man", and says cultural barriers between the north and south are a problem when it comes to enticing Milan-based capital down south.

"Southern Italy works very differently to the North," he says. Venture capitalist Giovanni di Caro admits that investment cash is thin on the ground Critics often point to roads riddled with pot-holes, slow trains, poorly delivered public investment. No wonder private capital chooses to stay away, they say.

But then there isn’t much of a pool of venture capital funds in Italy anyway – the sector is about a tenth of the size of London’s.

What Italians do have though is a very large and wealthy diaspora, one which Nicola Garelli’s company, Istarter in London, is tapping into. The idea is to attract Italian-born capital back home by appealing to a sense of patriotism.

Participants, "have a strong sense of giving back towards the country," says Mr Garelli, himself an Italian.

"We have lived abroad, but in the back of our minds is a desire to build for the next generation." Southern troubles: Neapolitans protest against political corruption and illegal waste dumping Istarter has invested in nearly 40 tech companies in Italy – but, again, none of these are in the south.

So what’s stopping them?

Britt Becking, of venture capital firm QVentures in London, says there just isn’t a buzz around the Naples tech start-up scene in the same way there is around tech start-ups in, say, Berlin.

It’s a chicken-and-egg situation: the private money won’t come until there’s an established tech scene, but start-ups can’t get established without access to capital.

"I would recommend [Neapolitan] start-ups try and go to London, Berlin, Silicon Valley," she says.

But that’s exactly what firms like Evja and Buzzoole don’t want to do. Investment here goes much further with far greater potential for big returns, they say, adding that venture capital firms are missing the point. More Technology of Business

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"If we had started in the US – somewhere like that – we would have needed $10m or $15m, but we did it with less than €3m here in Naples," says Fabrizio Perrone, Buzzoole chief executive and founder.

And for Evja’s Paolo Iasevoli it’s a badge of honour to do it all from Naples.

"I’m from Naples. If I was from Berlin, you wouldn’t be talking to me, right? So, Naples is a good starting point."

Naples, whose name derives from the Greek "neapolis" meaning "new city", has had to reinvent itself many times throughout history. Over the centuries it’s been the capital of duchies, kingdoms and empires.

Could it become a new capital of tech? Follow Technology of Business editor Matthew Wall on Twitter and Facebook

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Vapers rise ‘to more than three million’ in Britain

Vapers rise 'to more than three million' in Britain

The number of vapers in Great Britain has topped three million for the first time – four times the number in 2012, according to a survey by Action on Smoking and Health.

Most use e-cigarettes because they have quit smoking and 40% are smokers who are trying to give up.

The estimations are based on a survey of 12,000 British adults.

But a "worrying" belief that vaping is as bad as smoking still exists, a King’s College London analysis found.

Earlier this year, Public Health England said e-cigarettes should be made available on prescription because of how successful they were in helping people give up smoking.

And a report by MPs in August said rules around e-cigarettes should be relaxed so they could be used on public transport.

Ash, the public health charity, said this survey suggested smokers were getting the message that switching to vaping could improve their health.

It estimates a 10% rise in e-cigarette users between 2017 and 2018, up from 2.9 to 3.2 million.

But there are still some smokers – about a third – who have never tried one. Although increasing numbers of smokers now believe vaping is less harmful than smoking, 22% still think it is as bad or worse. And among the general public, one in four adults believes it to be as harmful as tobacco.

Also from the survey, 17% correctly believed vaping to be a lot less harmful than smoking – but 23% said they didn’t know which was more harmful. This compared with 13% and 29% last year.

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Ash, said: "UK policy is on the right track, with thousands of smokers making the switch to vaping and improving their health and little sign of non-smokers taking up vaping.

"But even more smokers could benefit if e-cigarettes were licensed as medicines and available on prescription."

Dr Leonie Brose, from King’s College London, called the mistaken belief by some people that vaping was as harmful as smoking "worrying".

"Campaigns from Public Health England and others to challenge these views are important and must continue," she said.

The top three reasons ex-smokers gave for using e-cigarettes were: to quit smoking (62%)

because they enjoyed it (11%)

to save money (10%)

Alison Cook, director of policy at the British Lung Foundation, said: "It’s really encouraging to see smokers using e-cigarettes to help them quit the much more harmful practice of smoking."

She said doctors and pharmacists "should be very clear with people that there is a range of products available and that they can try vaping as a way to stop smoking".

I Was Adopted Through a Faith-Based Adoption Provider. LGBT Groups Want Them Shut Down.

I Was Adopted Through a Faith-Based Adoption Provider. LGBT Groups Want Them Shut Down.

Ryan Bomberger is the chief creative officer and co-founder of The Radiance Foundation. When it comes to adoption, I’m incredibly biased. Although I was conceived in rape , my birthmom chose to be stronger than her circumstances. She rejected the further violence of abortion, and gave me life and the gift of adoption .

I grew up in a family of 15; nine of my 12 other siblings were also adopted. We were all loved like crazy by pro-lifers who are always absurdly accused of not caring for children after they’re born.

Of course that bumper sticker mantra is just a political jab with zero truth behind it. It’s no different from the political attacks on adoption that are happening right now.

LGBT groups want to shut down faith-based adoption agencies. This is not hyperbole. But there is plenty of irony.

These groups are aggressively attacking people for who they are (Christians) and who they love (the nation’s most vulnerable children, in and out of the womb).

Faith-based child welfare providers, like Catholic Social Services and Bethany Christian Services , have been caring for our nation’s most vulnerable children long before LGBT groups ever even existed. But now, powerful multimillion-dollar LGBT organizations want to ensure that these adoption agencies no longer exist unless they bow to their gender activism.

This is why I support the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act and the Aderholt amendment . Neither prevents any homosexual, bisexual, or “transgender” individual from going to a multitude of agencies that will consider their eligibility for adoption. They specifically enable faith-based agencies to continue to carry on their religious call to care for the unborn, birth moms, and foster children.

All of us are created by the union of a mother and a father. It’s not hateful or discriminatory to hold the inarguable biological reproductive process and subsequent model of parenting up as a reality.

I have plenty of friends who are single adoptive parents. They’re amazing. But, when we can, a child whose biological parent(s) cannot or will not provide a safe environment for her should be able to have a mom and a dad. That’s not hate. That’s love.

Does it make me singlephobic? I don’t hate single parents, whether biological or adoptive. It’s compassion that compels me to want the best for vulnerable children, as an adoption agency once did for me.

My multi-“racial” family (I put that in quotes because we’re just one human race) wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for faith-based adoption agencies. At a time when the National Association of Black Social Workers opposed transracial adoption (for any reason), faith-based agencies defied NABSW’s harmful, and racist, 1972 decree . NABSW still holds this tragic position.

But today’s titans of tolerance have none for Christians who won’t change their science-backed beliefs. In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities was forced to end its adoption services because the state wanted to (illegally) force it to place children with same-sex couples. The same happened in D.C . And now in Philadelphia , where faith-based adoption agencies were forced out of foster care contracts with the city because they’ve been practicing what they have been for decades—placing adoption-bound children in homes with a married mom and dad or single Christian parents.

Two of the legal powerhouses behind these insidious lawsuits ( here , here , here , and here ) that are trying to force faith-based child welfare providers to assimilate or close are the ACLU and Lambda Legal.

So much for keeping kids first. The very same groups launching a nationwide assault on faith-based adoption agencies are the ones who celebrate the abortion of millions—who could have been adopted—as faux “equality.”

The ACLU is unapologetically pro-abortion. The $100 million legal behemoth is proud to stand with Planned Parenthood , the nation’s largest abortion chain. It has tried and failed to force Catholic hospitals to commit abortions, you know, because abortion is soooo “pro-choice.” Apparently medical professionals should have no choice.

None of this stops those in the leftist ACLU from claiming that they are the ones who keep (the unaborted) kids first.

Never mind the ACLU has legally represented Nazis , the KKK , terrorists , and NAMBLA pedophiles/murderers and made sure these dangerous individuals and organizations had their First Amendment rights defended. Their vile beliefs are worth protecting, but ohhhhhh no, not faith-based adoption agencies that care for (not exploit, molest, or kill) children. They must be stopped.

Then, there’s Lambda Legal, the LGBT legal organization that made the relationship between abortion and LGBT “rights” crystal clear in a 2005 national conference call . “Reproductive freedom and LGBT rights have been inextricably linked both legally and politically. The ties between these rights are so strong that we really believe that a threat to one directly and profoundly impacts the other,” Legal Director Jon Davidson explained.

I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Both political movements are rooted in pseudoscience. Both movements have no regard for the First Amendment. Both movements decry discrimination and inequality while celebrating the most violent form of it committed by a billion-dollar abortion industry that kills people for who they are.

Like the ACLU, Lambda Legal seems to think that adoption is to serve special-interest groups, instead of a child’s best interests.

Adoption happens because of brokenness and is a selfless act that can bring wholeness and healing to the child and the birthparents. It creates forever families and unleashes purpose.

Activists think discrimination is inherently evil. The adoption process is inherently discriminatory for a reason. I know this as an adoptee and as an adoptive father. A child doesn’t need to move from dysfunction to more dysfunction, which is why prospective parents are heavily screened, investigated for any criminal background, and subjected to home studies to best assess their suitability.

The unborn, and our nation’s foster children, are the most vulnerable in our society. They need more compassionate child welfare providers who will help change the trajectory of their lives. They need more faith, hope, and love—not less.